News

Unhappy hunting grounds

by AMANDA WINTERS
Sequim Gazette

Some residents of Sunshine Acres in Diamond Point have had enough of deer hunters walking down their neighborhood streets and killing deer in their yards.

 

“I’m not willing to go out and walk,” resident Judy Foster said. “I don’t feel safe.”

 

Christine Hill won’t let her granddaughters play outside in her field, which is next to a wooded lot, because she sees hunters in the area.

 

It’s a multi-faceted problem, residents admit. Some want the large deer population whittled down, seeing the animals as a health and safety hazard ­— especially for the airport located in the neighborhood. They can, and some do, invite hunters to kill the deer on their property and in the vicinity of the airport.

 

Others like the deer, don’t want them hunted and continue to feed them though it is discouraged by the Sunshine Acres Property Owners Association.

 

A group in the middle doesn’t have a problem with hunting, some are hunters themselves, they just don’t want it happening — literally — in their backyards.

Safety concerns

“I just can’t believe they’re allowing it,” Barry Olson, a Vietnam veteran and resident of Sunshine Acres, said at a recent meeting.

 

Olson said he used to be an avid hunter but never would have considered hunting in a residential neighborhood where almost all the 400-plus lots are developed.

 

“It’ll be a sport when you teach a deer to use a thirty-aught-six,” neighbor Sarah Kincaid said.

“It’s like catching fish in a goldfish bowl,” another added.

 

The State Department of Fish and Wildlife regulates hunting season but not whether or not hunting is permitted on private property. While county ordinance prohibits discharging a firearm within 300 feet of a building normally occupied by people or pets, or 200 feet in the case of shotguns, the ordinance doesn’t specifically address bows and arrows and crossbows. Additionally, some neighbors say even the 300-foot rule is being violated.

 

Annemarie Montera, president of SAPOA, said her neighbors to the back gave hunters permission to hunt on their property. One day, a buck was shot at the edge of her neighbor’s lot and it dragged itself to her yard, where it died as a doe looked on. Montera said the hunter was certainly less than 300 feet from her house.

 

“There are hunting rules about how close to a house you can be and of course once the hunters started coming out here the rules got forgotten.”

 

Montera said it isn’t uncommon for deer wounded on one lot to die on another. She gets phone calls when it happens.

 

“If you give permission for someone to hunt on your property and it causes danger or damage to someone else or their property, believe me you’re the one who will have to pay,” she said, calling the residential hunting a safety hazard.

County rule

Everett Stauffer wants the county ordinance addressing weapons discharge to be changed to include crossbows and bows and arrows.

 

“We need bows to be defined as a weapon,” he said.

 

Hunters walk up and down the streets and between houses with bows and arrows and crossbows, unregulated, he said.

 

Stauffer said he went to two Clallam County Board of Commissioners meetings to ask if the ordinance could be changed and was told he needed to gather signatures on a petition to make the area a no-shooting zone.

 

He was told it wasn’t in the county’s best interest to change the ordinance, he said.

 

“Why is it not in the county’s best interest to protect us?” he said.

 

While reckless endangerment and trespass laws can be applied in some circumstances, both can only be applied after the fact and won’t help prevent someone from getting hurt, he said.

 

Kincaid said one day at dusk she saw a hunter lean against his truck and point his gun at a buck in her front yard. She turned on her lights and the hunter drove away. She has since put up no-trespassing signs on her property.

Sheriff responds

Clallam County Sheriff Bill Benedict said the neighborhood used to have no-hunting signs posted around. If they were posted again, his office would enforce them, he said.

 

Benedict said changing the county ordinance to include bows and arrows and crossbows may seem “devilishly simple” but it just isn’t the best course of action.

 

“That doesn’t accomplish anything,” he said. “There are areas that people shoot within 300 feet of buildings and they are their own buildings.”

 

In a letter to a Sunshine Acres resident, Benedict recommends the property owners association have a vote to affirm prohibition of hunting in the residential areas. The airport could be excluded or included, he said.

 

Also, property owners could petition the board of commissioners to designate the neighborhood a no-shoot area, he said.

 

The easiest course of action, though, is to put the no-hunting signs back up, he said.

 

“No need to get hung up on what the weapon is,” he said.

Sign dilemma

Montera said while they could post the no hunting signs again, because the area isn’t actually a designated no-hunting zone, she doesn’t see the point.

 

“Under what authority do I do that?” she said. “I can’t force it on the neighbors that want the hunting.”

 

Montera said individual property owners certainly can put up their own no-hunting signs but as president of the property owners association, she can’t make that decision neighborhood-wide.

 

“It’s a democracy back here, we can’t side with one group,” she said.

 


Reach Amanda Winters at awinters@sequimgazette.com.

 

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